The challenge: Karen Ganter had lived for years with the generic master bath in her Eagan home. "It was a basic oak builder bath. Nothing fun or special," she said. "The shower was the size of a little box." While she had freshened it up with new paint and a few other cosmetic fixes several years ago, it was due for a more dramatic makeover. "I was so tired of the oak feel," she said. Last spring, she updated her bedroom in soothing, spalike colors, which inspired her to finally tackle the bath. "I knew I wanted to gut it," she said. "But the mess, the construction. … Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and make it happen."
The designer: Jeralyn Mohr, Full Nest Inc., interiordesignminnesota.com, in collaboration with Lakewood Construction, lakewoodconstructioninc.com, and Paulson Brothers Woodworkx, paulsonbrothers.com. Mohr and Ganter have a long working relationship. "I've worked with her for years. She has pretty much redone my whole house," Ganter said. "She knows my style so well — I don't have to be pulled into every little detail."
Gaining space: To expand the bathroom and create room for a bigger, better shower, the wall between the bathroom and laundry room was moved, providing 18 additional inches. "It was not a ton [of space] but it did make a huge difference," Mohr said. (To maximize square footage in the now-smaller laundry room, Ganter replaced her free-standing washer and dryer with a stacked unit.)
Shower art: The mirrored tile that Ganter fell in love with turned out to be a budget-buster. "It was too expensive to do the whole shower in it," she said. "But Jeralyn had a great idea. She said, 'Let's frame it in the shower and make it look like a piece of art.' " The eye-catching tile has even more impact when it's used as a focal point instead of the whole shower, Mohr said. "If it's everywhere, you don't appreciate it. It's like an exotic rug."
Calming colors: An understated color palette of gray, white, ivory, pale blush and whisper-soft aqua brings a spalike vibe to the new bath. "The new palette is a little more elegant and subdued," Mohr said. The dark, dated oak cabinets were replaced with custom cabinets in a gray enameled finish, with Shaker-style fronts and furniture detailing. "The cabinets have arches on the bottom, but still a kick plate right behind," said Mohr. "It looks like a piece of furniture but is easier to clean."
Accent wall: The big whirlpool tub was replaced with a sleek sculptural soaking tub. For the angled wall behind it, Mohr suggested a stenciled mural. "It really sets things off," said Ganter. The bold, large-scale stencil creates a strong vertical and architectural element. Getting the colors just right took trial and error. Mohr first painted the wall silver, then painted over the stencil in pale aqua. "It turned out more gunmetal, and didn't have a happy feeling," she said. So she bought pearlescent glaze, mixed it with a touch of aqua and white, and applied another coat to create a sheerer, more reflective finish. "It made it look more like a silk fabric," Mohr said. "It looked like a metal gate before. It's a fresher, happier look."
Let there be light: Mohr created layers of lighting, from recessed cans to fixtures, so that Ganter can adjust illumination to her liking. "You can flood it with light or have it more moody," Mohr said. The sconces have a modern vibe — a sleek drum shape with a bit of bling. "She likes cut crystal, like a jewelry piece," Mohr said. "It's architectural and tailored, but still feminine. It casts great shadows and textures on the walls."
Statement surfaces: Ganter replaced her formerly generic white floor tile and countertops with more distinctive materials. The new floor tile, laid at an angle to echo the accent wall, has a crosshatch texture like linen and a matte finish. "It's very fabric-y," said Mohr. The new Cambria quartz countertops mingle soft gray and ivory tones.
Final touches: To finish the room, Mohr added an Oriental rug. "It's synthetic and handles water, with a little sheen," Mohr said. Blush-colored towels and foam water lilies to float on the bathwater's surface complete the look. "I even got her blush-colored shampoo," said Mohr with a laugh, "because that's how I roll."
The result: Ganter's once-utilitarian bath is now a calming oasis. "It's my respite," she said. "It looks so nice and soothing. It just brings on a happy mood."